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The Year of Magical Thinking Paperback – February 13, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Many will greet this taut, clear-eyed memoir of grief as a long-awaited return to the terrain of Didion's venerated, increasingly rare personal essays. The author of Slouching Towards Bethlehem and 11 other works chronicles the year following the death of her husband, fellow writer John Gregory Dunne, from a massive heart attack on December 30, 2003, while the couple's only daughter, Quintana, lay unconscious in a nearby hospital suffering from pneumonia and septic shock. Dunne and Didion had lived and worked side by side for nearly 40 years, and Dunne's death propelled Didion into a state she calls "magical thinking." "We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss," she writes. "We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes." Didion's mourning follows a traditional arc—she describes just how precisely it cleaves to the medical descriptions of grief—but her elegant rendition of its stages leads to hard-won insight, particularly into the aftereffects of marriage. "Marriage is not only time: it is also, paradoxically, the denial of time. For forty years I saw myself through John's eyes. I did not age." In a sense, all of Didion's fiction, with its themes of loss and bereavement, served as preparation for the writing of this memoir, and there is occasionally a curious hint of repetition, despite the immediacy and intimacy of the subject matter. Still, this is an indispensable addition to Didion's body of work and a lyrical, disciplined entry in the annals of mourning literature.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From The New Yorker
Didion's husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, died of a heart attack, just after they had returned from the hospital where their only child, Quintana, was lying in a coma. This book is a memoir of Dunne's death, Quintana's illness, and Didion's efforts to make sense of a time when nothing made sense. "She's a pretty cool customer," one hospital worker says of her, and, certainly, coolness was always part of the addictive appeal of Didion's writing. The other part was the dark side of cool, the hyper-nervous awareness of the tendency of things to go bad. In 2004, Didion had her own disasters to deal with, and she did not, she feels, deal with them coolly, or even sanely. This book is about getting a grip and getting on; it's also a tribute to an extraordinary marriage.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
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Didion's unerring eye for detail and her beautiful prose allowed me to find at least one other soul to whom I could resonate. She describes with great accuracy the magic thoughts we create to help us escape the pain that seems in every pore. For example she relates obsessing over every detail leading to the death of her husband. Well I knew people did that. The trick is the magic that if we can locate that one thing that caused the rest of the fall, our loved one can come back to life.. This is just one example. The book is just personal enough to ring true but not so personal that a fellow griever cannot join her. For those who wish to understand a person in profound grief, this reading will help. The length is just right and language is artful.
Personally, after losing my beautiful wife Karen of 28 years after only a 5 week period of time from her first symptom to her passing away from a rare metastatic cancer I could definitely relate to everything that Joan Dideon was able to present to her audience and I have found all that she says to be so very true.
I highly recommend this book for anyone, but especially for those that are grieving the loss of a spouse; you will soon find out that you are not crazy and that how Joan Dideon portrays this true story is exactly what it is like and you are not alone at all as you thought that you were.
While I was much more fortunate than Joan Dideon was because we had time to tell one another how we felt about each other and to share all of that and say our goodbyes until a future time; author Joan Dideon didn't have that option and I wish that I could have given it to her.
A superb true story, one that I am so glad that I chose to read by such a fine author and journalist as Joan Dideon.
I would still choose a different style if I were to write essays and novels.
This book is a personal account of grief and the myriad of ways it showed up in Didion's life in the first year following the death of her husband, John, and around the life-threatening illnesses that concurrently and subsequently imperiled the life of their daughter, Quintana, during that same year. Dedicated to John and Quintana, it is by turns searing and poignant.
True to the spirit of grief, there are some very funny moments and there are some very painful moments. Near the end of the book, Didion writes: "I realize as I write this that I do not want to finish this account." She laments for all of us who mourn the death of a loved one.
For more information on loss and change, grief and bereavement, go to LeaningIntoLoss.com.